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On December 15, 1965, representatives from the player associations of England, France, Italy, Netherlands and Scotland assembled in Paris to establish FIFPro. These are the most important resolutions passed that day, as FIFPro took its first step on the road to becoming the official representative of professional footballers worldwide.

The abbreviation F.I.F.Pro derives from Federation Internationale des Footballeurs Professionnels. Deciding on a name was the first challenge on that famous day in the former offices of French players' union, UNFP, at 14, rue du Pont Neuf. In the early days, though, there was a desire to carry the joint names of F.I.F.Pro and I.F.P.F.A. (International Federation of Professional Footballers' Associations).

Finding an operational headquarters was the next point of business. Far from the magnificence of FIFPro House, near Amsterdam, where the organisation is based today, for a new body with very limited resources and no full-time staff at the time, it was agreed to share an office with UNFP on a temporary basis.

The first FIFPro meeting included the following participants (in alphabetical order):

• Jacques Bertrand

• Edmond Biernat

• Roger Blanpain

• Jean-Claude D'Armenia

• Jean-Pierre Destrumelle

• Michel Hidalgo

• Johnny Hughes

• Karel Jansen

• Jim Janssen van Raaij

• Gerard Kerkum

• Cliff Lloyd

• Carlo Masera


Legendary French striker, Just Fontaine, then Honorary President of UNFP, who still holds the record for goals scored in a single World Cup (in 1958), offered his apologies for not being able to attend, as did two of his contemporaries Raymond Kopa and Bruno Bollini.

Jacques Bertrand took the floor and drew up the day's order of business before handing over to Professor Roger Blanpain, a Belgian-based lawyer and author of several books concerning the rights of professional footballers, who chaired the meeting.

Blanpain's appointment, described in the official minutes, was partly 'because of his profound knowledge of English, French, Dutch and German languages,' a fitting opening remark as this was the birth of a multicultural organisation that is now officially positioned as football's only global counterpart to world governing body FIFA.

In shaping the statutes of FIFPro, one of the most important resolutions unanimously adopted in 1965 was to embrace the principle of solidarity. It was described as such, 'The statutes... will take into account the necessity to reassure ties of solidarity between the professional players of the different countries because FIFPro has the aim to coordinate the activity of diverse membership groups in order to promote the moral and material interests of the professional players.'

A detailed overview of the principles by which FIFPro stands today, fifty years on, can be found by clicking this link.

It was estimated 47,000 French Francs ($8,000 USD) would be needed for start-up costs, of which the Italian players' association made an immediate contribution of 4,000 French Francs ($680 USD). Others wanted more time to consider what they could afford. Asking union officials, who effectively operated on little more than the smell of an oily rag, for money might explain why Professor Blanpain thought it appropriate to call for a lunch break.

After lunch, with their bellies full and minds relaxed by the odd glass of wine, the English, Scottish and Dutch representatives emptied their pockets by each committing 5,000 French Francs ($850 USD) to FIFPro's cause. As explained in the official minutes of that meeting, the French offered personnel and office space to start the work. As for who paid for lunch, that remains a mystery.

Finding resources to keep the FIFPro dream alive was a delicate matter that was discussed at length over the course of the nine hours it took to meet in a small, crowded room. Still, some had enough change rattling around to purchase the cigarettes that filled the air with smoke, which lingered persistently with the windows shut to stop the heat from escaping on that brisk winter's day in the French capitol.

It was proposed that national unions would organise matches against each other, while FIFPro would combine these players in an all-star format to try and generate income. One of many ideas. The main target centered on the FIFA World Cup, to ensure players received their fair share of the commercial revenue they help to generate as a star attraction of football's quadrennial event.

Resolution eight mentioned, 'In order to find the permanent resources to increase the funds of FIFPro, a delegation will ask to be received by the FIFA to obtain a reasonable share of the receipts for the organisation of the World Cup.'

The stage had been set as FIFPro's leadership structure took shape, with Professor Roger Blanpain nominated as President, flanked by his first Vice President Michel Hidalgo, and Jacques Bertrand took on the roles as Secretary-General and Treasurer who held executive power. These are the three gentlemen whose signatures appear at the bottom of the first ever FIFPro meeting minutes. The full board was as follows:

Roger Blanpain is nominated President of FIFPro

• Michel Hidalgo, President of UNFP France, is nominated first Vice President

• John Hughes, Secretary-General of PFA Scotland, is nominated Vice President

• Gerard Kerkum, President of VVCS Netherlands, is nominated Vice President

• Cliff Lloyd, Secretary-General of PFA England, is nominated Vice President

• Carlo Masera, Secretary-General of AIC Italy, is nominated Vice President

• Jacques Bertrand, adviser to UNFP France, is nominated Secretary-General and Treasurer, and holds executive power.


It was decided that day to hold the first FIFPro General Assembly in London in the weeks leading up to the 1966 FIFA World Cup, and the recruitment phase was initiated by offering existing national unions around the world the chance to join FIFPro. New members required a two thirds majority vote from board members to gain entry. As of 2015, the organisation boasts 58 member countries and others lying in wait.

One of the first agreed tasks was to survey players worldwide to help FIFPro understand the status of professional footballers and how it could best serve them on an international level. Jim Janssen van Raaij, a legal advisor representing VVCS Netherlands, oversaw the process with a commitment made to devise a questionnaire in Dutch, German, English, French, Spanish and Arabic.

A brave new world had opened up as dusk fell. The meeting was adjourned at 6:30pm. A group of determined trade union officials hit the streets of Paris, a short walk from some of the world's most iconic landmarks: Notre Dame to the east, the Louvre to the west. In the distance, the Eiffel Tower twinkling at night.

A new monument had been built that day along rue du Pont Neuf, one that stands proudly as a shining beacon to all professional footballers worldwide. The entrance to the building where this meeting took place is hard to miss: a beautifully vibrant red wooden door marks the spot. Paris as a foundation city felt right too, where liberté, égalité, and fraternité are values enshrined in French culture and woven into the fabric of FIFPro.

A statement was released to waiting members of the press that highlighted:

'FIFPro regards itself as the only representative organisation of the national teams of professional footballers. The aim of the organisation is to reassure the ties of solidarity between the professional players in all countries, to coordinate the activitiy of the different member teams, and to intervene to promote and the defend the moral and material interests of the professional players. From now on FIFPro will establish contacts with FIFA in order to promote positive and constructive relations in an atmosphere of collaboration and mutual understanding.'

Free agency and dismantling a hideous retain and transfer system were key themes at the time. Two years prior to this historic gathering in Paris came the George Eastham case of 1963. Thirty years later, the football world would learn of Jean-Marc Bosman who was backed by FIFPro all the way to his epic victory in the European Court of Justice. All the while, FIFPro has taken, as stated in its principles, 'an exceptionally critical attitude to any form of transfer system for professional players.'

This issue is very much alive today as the transfer system continues to evolve in a variety of harmful ways. Player rights are repeatedly violated, true freedom denied, and the industry at large is spiraling out of control. Competitive and economic imbalance - the ever-increasing gap between rich and poor - are just some of the fundamental failings that can be directly linked to the transfer system.

As FIFPro celebrates its 50th Anniversary, reliving the day those gentlemen first met in Paris, in 1965, is much more than a history lesson. This journey helps to frame the stark reality of today and FIFPro's never ending quest to strike a fair balance between players and clubs, an organisational objective which is set to escalate in 2015 and beyond as the ongoing struggle to reform football's failing transfer system reaches a critical juncture.


Photo (above): Representatives from the player associations of England, France, Italy, Netherlands and Scotland meet on December 15, 1965, in Paris to establish FIFPro.